It has been some time now since the media was filled on a daily basis with the blatantly cruel action taken against Mrs. Sherrod because those in power failed to do due diligence and get accurate information before forcing her to resign.
That there live among us ordinary people, people in positions of authority and trust, including teachers, doctors, priests, who do stupid, hateful or real evil things against others, as well noted in the latest missive from the Vatican about priests who abuse, nonetheless it is also true in the vengeful climate which permeates church and society, the numbers of falsely accused grow exponentially.
To wit the Sherrod case which in the secular world is but one example of what happens on a daily basis within the Church where the Bishops move even more peremptorily than the American Secretary of Agriculture – though unlike him I am unaware of any bishop who has reversed actions against a falsely accused priest, much less made a public apology.
Yet in all the media flap around the latest from the Vatican, and the continued failure of the Church to actually protect the rights and reputations of accused priests before definitive findings of guilt or innocence are made, I am moved to suggest that the following words of Pope Benedict, from his Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, # 29, while written about difficult marriage questions, ought to apply in ALL applications of Church law, including those around the matter of accused priests: “…..’it is a grave obligation to bring the Church’s institutional activity in her tribunals ever closer to the faithful”….’ …one should begin by assuming that the fundamental point of encounter between the law and pastoral care is love for the truth: truth is never something purely abstract, but “a real part of the human and Christian journey for every member of the faithful.’”
The current climate of Star Chamber justice which takes place in the hands of local bishops and likewise in the chambers of the Vatican is unworthy of the Church and is contrary to the above call for transparency.
I write the above very conscious of St. Paul’s admonition: “ ..if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another.” [Gal. 5: 15]
It is not my intent to ‘bite’ anyone here, rather simply to raise a cautionary plea that while we are rightly horrified an innocent woman was trashed by manipulation of video tape, and are rightly even more horrified by the abuse of children, those with power in the Church, and those laity and media within and without the Church, who are so quick to believe and take subsequent action against any accused priest, should learn from what happened to Mrs. Sherrod and do better due diligence BEFORE taking public action.
Finally, even where there seems to be evidence of sin, should we not all like Abraham plead with the Lord to relent and forgive, more so imitate Jesus on the Cross asking the Father to forgive us?
What truly horrifies me these days is the culture of “gotcha” and revenge has seeped from the world into the Church.